Interview with Leigh, 18 - 19, White British, working class. Women, Risk and AIDS Project, Manchester, 1989. Anonymised version (Ref: SS101)
Anonymised transcript of an interview with Leigh who is at college and would like to work in advertising. She went to an all girl's school, which offered careers advice that pushed women to go into male dominated fields instead of traditional female jobs, rather than encouraging them into anything more 'gender neutral'. Leigh hasn't felt any pressure to go into a traditionally female role, in part due to her mum's open-mindedness. She gets on well with her mum now she's older, after some mild turbulence and rebellion in her younger years. She doesn't take as many risks as she used to and dresses in a more demure manner so as to not garner too much unwanted male attention, despite her reluctance. Leigh is in a steady relationship, and has some female friends at college but doesn't spend much time with them outside of college, preferring her boyfriend's company instead - they have been together for about a year. She had her first sex in a previous relationship after four months. They were both virgins at the time, and Leigh wanted her first time to be with a virgin so that they wouldn't be able to compare her to other sexual partners. She would only have sex within a serious relationship as she would like her sexual partners to stick around afterwards. Losing your virginity was seen as a way of being, or acting, mature, but Leigh was 18. Again, she did not feel any pressure around this thanks to her mum's willingness to answer any questions and discuss it openly, but did think there was some stigma around still being a virgin in her older teens - 'I started to wonder is there something wrong with me because it just never even entered my head to do that sort of thing'. Her all girl's school provided sex education that was out of date and too late, for instance leaving contraception until fifth year when many of Leigh's peers had already engaged in sexual activity. Leigh had had to do a lot of her own research around pregnancy protection, contraception and the reproductive system, mostly through watching documentaries. Her mum had lots of issues with an IUD, so Leigh has been very skeptical of different contraceptive methods. Her preference at the moment is the pill, despite being told the risks by her doctor. She had learnt about AIDS at school, but notes that there was lots of confusion and naivety among teachers around the information that had been presented - Leigh and her friends had to do their own research. Leigh talks about a programme about AIDS called First Aid Kit, but says that they aired it at times when young people wouldn't be at home to watch it. She thought it was a good show, though, and made condoms more accessible. She would be insulted if a potential sexual partner asked her to have an AIDS test and thinks that AIDS awareness will promote monogamy. Although she is very aware of the risks of AIDS transmission and confident in her knowledge, Leigh contradicts this by relying on her partner's sexual history to protect her against AIDS. She is on the pill, but uses condoms to protect against pregnancy rather than AIDS.
Women, Risk and Aids Project (WRAP, 1989-90)
The Reanimating Data Project
Greater Manchester, UK
CC BY-NC 4.0